• Published 3rd Sep 2021
  • 374 Views, 52 Comments

Kindness and the Fate of Shadow - Raven-Flight

An old threat is back, leading Fluttershy and Discord to confront their plans for the future. They've each been keeping secrets...

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Everycreature's up to Something

Well, he was oddly receptive, thought Twilight, easing herself into her desk chair and levitating over a scroll and quill. Maybe he really does want to change. Maybe those years imprisoned by his own hatred did him some good.

Twilight took a few minutes to take notes on her visit with Sombra and the results of the evening’s instruction. While she worked, though, she couldn’t stop thinking about Cozy Glow. She was having some serious trouble with that filly. Cozy Glow was understandably bored, left alone in a tiny pocket dimension, but she still adamantly refused to accept Twilight’s friendship instruction.

She felt bad for the filly. She wanted to give in to her requests for leniency and entertainment, but how could she when Cozy Glow was still so unresponsive? The one time Twilight had brought her a pet for companionship ended in disaster. That poor hamster lived with Fluttershy now while it recovered from its physical and emotional trauma, and Cozy Glow had lived in isolation since then.

Giving up on the filly was not an option, but Twilight had been feeling awfully helpless about the situation. Maybe it was time for another visit. News of Sombra’s progress might encourage Cozy Glow to rethink her obstinacy. Twilight mentally prepared herself and flashed away to her pocket dimension.

“Wowie, a visit from Princess Chatterbox! To what do I owe the honor?” Cozy Glow made an exaggerated salute, even though she was balancing on her head at the moment.

“Hi, Cozy. I just wanted to see you, that’s all. How are you doing today?”

“Today? Is it day? I thought it was the middle of the night. You can never tell in this boring little room.” She flipped herself right-side-up and rolled her eyes.

Twilight powered her magic and concentrated, but produced nothing more than sparks. She had the power to raise the sun and moon in the real world, but apparently not to create a sun and moon here. This pocket dimension was Discord’s creation, in the end; inventing some scenery for it probably required his chaos magic. Not that she hadn’t thought as much sooner—it was just that the interaction with Cozy Glow always went the same way. “Would you like me to get Discord to conjure up a landscape for you?”

“Only if that landscape is Ponyville. On fire.”

Still no progress, then. Twilight repressed a deep sigh and tried a different approach. “We let Sombra out yesterday.”

“What? Really? What for? Did you get him groveling at your hooves for mercy? Ha ha ha! Did he cry? I bet he cried!”

“No, Cozy. We had to let him out because his prison was killing him. We’re keeping him in the castle dungeon for now until he shows evidence of reform.”

The filly’s eyes grew wider. Then she coughed and toppled over to the side. “Oh, princess, my prison is killing me too! You’ll have to let me out or I’ll die in here and it’ll be all your fault!

“Uh-huh.” Twilight walked in a circle around Cozy Glow to perform a quick health diagnostic. “Sombra’s prison was killing him because it was having a bad reaction with his dark magic. You don’t have any dark magic to cause problems, and you seem to be okay.”

“Fine, then! I’m dying of boredom!”

“I’m trying to help you, Cozy! If you gave me some indication that you’re willing to study friendship for real, I’d be more than happy to let you out of here and instruct you back in the real world! I just can’t do that if you keep insisting on being a danger!”

“I do insist on being a danger, and I also insist I’m dying of boredom. Can’t I at least have some parchment and a quill?”

“Last time I gave you parchment, you drew yourself killing me and my friends and drafted a scheme to take over Equestria.”

Cozy Glow lowered herself into a crouch and bared her teeth. “Well, what do you want me to do, then? Nothing? I’ve been doing nothing forever!”

Now Twilight sighed deeply. “I know. I hoped you’d agree to be reformed in the real world like Sombra. It would at least have more entertainment, and you wouldn’t be so alone all the time. But now I wonder if I should have treated you like Sombra in the beginning; that is, encase you in a crystal until the light of your hatred dies down enough to release you. It shouldn’t be dangerous since you don’t have dark magic, and you might not feel the loneliness and passage of time quite so acutely.”

“Golly, I don’t really get to choose, do I?” Cozy Glow walked up to Twilight to stare defiantly in her face. “Well, if you want to stick me in some awful crystal and get rid of me until Grogar-knows-when, then go right ahead! See you in a millenium or two, I guess!”

What could she do? Twilight powered her horn. The amount of time that defiant look would be frozen on that filly’s face was incalculable, and Twilight wanted to cry. She hadn’t intended it to come to this!

There was a flash of light, and then stillness.

Cozy Glow looked around. There was no crystal encasing her for eternity, and Twilight had vanished. “Coward,” she sneered.

My dear friends,

It’s been a while since I’ve heard from you two! I assume that means you’re having too much fun on your trip to Saddle Arabia to think about us back in Equestria, and I certainly wouldn’t blame you if that were the case! As for me, I’m managing, and the kingdom is still running smoothly, so I suppose I have no complaints.

There is a matter I wanted to bring to your attention, though. Not that I’m asking for your assistance! Please don’t come out of retirement for this—I just wanted to see if you had any sage advice to offer for a sticky situation.

You see, we had to release Sombra from his pocket dimension prison. It was reacting badly with his dark magic and slowly killing him. He’s now in a cell in the real world under close guard, and I and the others are giving him friendship lessons. So far, he has been receptive to the idea of reforming himself. That’s not where I need some advice.

The problem is Cozy Glow. She’s still being stubborn and disinterested in friendship. I told her what we did with Sombra, hoping she would accept a similar treatment in exchange for a promise of good intentions, but she refused. I’m so tempted to freeze her inside a crystal and just let time rub the sharp edges off her anger, like Fluttershy had attempted to do with Sombra! I don’t think it would be right, though.

So you see, I could use some advice. How are you getting on with Tirek and Chrysalis? Are they improving themselves yet? I could use a success story right about now.

Always your student and friend,

Twilight Sparkle

Applejack was rolling out the pie dough while Rarity prepared the cherry filling. They had managed to get through the entire baking process without saying anything of importance to each other. Applejack had made sure of that, dusting Rarity’s face with flour the moment it sounded like she was about to ask a sensitive question. That had forced the unicorn to make a trip to the powder room to de-powder her nose. It wasn’t until the pie was ready to come out of the oven that Rarity was willing to try again.

“Will you at least tell me how your visit with Sombra went yesterday?”

Applejack slipped a mitt over her hoof and turned to pull the pie out of the oven. “Well, I think—”

“APPLEJACK! How did your visit with Sombra go yesterday?” Discord burst out of the oven and accidentally knocked the pony in question backward into Rarity.

“Discord!” exclaimed Rarity, untangling herself from her friend. “What in Equestria are you doing in my house?”

The draconequus made a show of looking around. “Am I in your house? It wasn’t my intention. I just wanted to speak to Applejack, so I teleported myself right to her.”

“You’ve gone and ruined our pie!” Applejack pushed past Discord to gaze in horror at the boiling mess inside the oven.

“Hmm? Oh, never mind that.” With a snap of his fingers, the mess vanished and a fresh pie appeared on the counter. “You must tell me about your visit with Sombra!”

Applejack cocked an eyebrow. “Why do you wanna know?”

Because Fluttershy’s going to pay him a visit alone later today, and I’m worried about her! You’re the honest one, and since you’ve visited Sombra now, I want your opinion! Is he safe? Should I go chaperone?”

Rarity cut in. “If Fluttershy wants to go alone, I hope you leave her to it, Discord! Respecting your partner’s emotional needs is an important part of a healthy relationship.” The look of warmth and patience she sent toward Applejack went unnoticed. Not by its intended recipient, anyway.

“I reckon Fluttershy’ll be fine, Discord. Sombra seemed awful weak when I visited him, and his magic ain’t workin’ at all thanks to that device you stuck on his horn. I’m sure you’ve got nothin’ to worry about.”

Discord flew right up to Applejack’s face. “Is that your whole assessment, then? Come now, Applejack: you’re the embodiment of honesty, so you know as well as I do that withholding information is as bad as lying!”

“Well...” Applejack rubbed a hoof along the back of her neck. “I’m fairly certain he’s physically harmless, and he sure talks like he’s willin’ to be reformed, but… I gotta say, I have my doubts. I’m pretty sure he’s plottin’ somethin’; he’s just bidin’ his time right now. The trick is gonna be to convince him to want to be reformed before he gets enough strength back to try anythin’.”

“So, you’re saying I should go keep an eye on things?” Discord started wringing his hands.

“No, I’m sayin’ Sombra’s dishonest but harmless. Give Fluttershy space to do her work. It’s not like she hasn’t reformed anycreature before, ya know.”

“Heh, right.” Discord coughed up a laugh. “I suppose that’s true.”

“Well, now that we’ve gotten that all settled, will you please get out of my house?” Rarity daintily stomped a hoof for emphasis.

Discord feigned offense. “What, you don’t appreciate my company?”

After moving to stand beside Rarity, Applejack offered the intrusion a pointed stare. “It’s not that. I was just tryin’ to enjoy some quality time with my friend before I head back to Ponyville for another two weeks.”

“Quality time, eh? Certainly a little fun-filled chaos would—” At that moment, Discord noticed the way the two mares were brushing shoulders, like they wanted to lean into each other but were also trying not to. He remembered Rarity’s warm look to Applejack too. A devilish grin broke out across his face. “Oh, you mean that kind of quality time! How scandalous!” He wiggled his eyebrows for good measure.

Discord giggled when Applejack and Rarity rapidly sidestepped apart. Then they both started talking at once.

“There’s no need to be so vulgar!”

“So what if that’s what it is?”

Rarity whipped her head around to meet Applejack’s gaze, the unwelcome visitor suddenly forgotten. “What was that?”

“I said, ‘so what if that’s what it is’.”

“Y-you mean...”

“I mean you’re right, Rarity. I have been avoiding this, but it’s already here, ain’t it? I was just scared ‘cause I didn’t know what it would mean for my family, or the farm, or myself. You know how stubborn and independent I am, and I didn’t wanna let myself be dependent on anypony else.”

At this point, Discord had conjured a recliner and a bag of popcorn. Applejack went on, oblivious.

“Well, I realized somthin’. I’ve been scared a lot lately about the future, and whenever I’m scared, what do I do? I write to ya, or if I can, I come visit. In your company, my problems don’t seem quite so bad. So I figure I’m already a little dependent on you, Rarity, and what’s the use of denyin’ it any longer? It only makes things harder for me, and I know it’s hard on you too. Maybe it’s time I just accept it so we can see where this goes.”

“Oh, Applejack!” Rarity wiped a tear from her eye and threw herself on the earth pony for a hug. “I’ve waited so long to hear you say that, and now that you have, I hardly know what to do with myself!”

“Ha!” Discord’s exclamation made both mares jump in surprise. “If romance is your game after all, I might have a few suggestions!” He tossed away his greasy popcorn bag and snapped, causing the lights to dim and rose petals to appear scattered across the floor.

Standing beside each other again, Applejack and Rarity exchanged a wide-eyed look.

“Why the hay not?” asked Applejack, turning back to Discord. “What would you suggest for us?”

The draconequus silently squee’d at being accepted as a source of advice. “You two are going to need to have your first official date! Now, I know a good place out by—”

“Hold on a moment,” interrupted Rarity. “I think I speak for both of us when I say we’d rather keep this ‘relationship’ of ours a secret for the time being. I don’t want to be seen in public in that light just yet.”

“And don’t you go tellin’ the rest of our friends, either,” Applejack added. “If things work out, I think we’d rather have the chance to tell everypony ourselves.”

“Very well, very well. Oh, this is so exciting!” Discord levitated up and spun around in the air. “I won’t even tell Fluttershy! Two ponies so different in character! Love can be so unpredictable, can’t it? What a gloriously chaotic thing! The farm pony took a fancy to the fancy pony, and the fancy pony fawns over the farm pony. It’s perfectly harmonious, and yet utterly chaotic! You know, I never imagined it would be through love that chaos and harmony might reach a gyrating sort of balance, yet here we are! I can’t tell you how happy I am for you two!” Discord landed back on the floor and enthusiastically shook the mares’ hooves.

Quite understandably, neither Rarity nor Applejack could figure out what to do or say to that, so they kept their stunned silence.

Discord was unfazed. “Oh, but you must have a date! Why not right here?”

He snapped, and they were all suddenly in the transformed dining room. Soft sunlight poured through gossamer curtains to illuminate a lavishly-set table. The tablecloth was a surprisingly elegant combination of paisley and lace, and there were two opalescent china plates and two crystal glasses positioned across from each other. In the center were a darkened bottle of tempting liquid and the pie, made fresh again and garnished with vibrant mint leaves and a trio of passion fruits. There were tall, green taper candles on either side of the pie, and, most strikingly of all, flowers everywhere. Big, smiling blooms lining the perimeter of the table. Garlands draping over the chairs and the crystal chandelier, sporting flowers in aquamarine, pearl, and heliotrope. Decadent bouquets hung from the walls in burnished gold sconces. Tall pots and trim topiaries stood in the corners and along the walls. The fragrance of it all was balmy and intoxicating.

Rarity was also quick to notice that she and Applejack had been dressed for the occasion. Both mares now wore elegant dresses fit for royalty. Hers was a voluminous ballroom gown with a fluted collar reminiscent of a seashell, a fitted velvet bodice with swirls of tiny, sparkling gemstones, and a dramatically ruffled skirt with a different blue in each layer of tulle that gave the impression of ocean waves as she moved. Applejack’s dress had a loose and flowing sheath style. It was emerald green and artfully sequined, such that the play of light on its surface looked rather like sunlight dappling on the grass beneath an apple tree on a bright summer afternoon. The ocean and orchard effects of each respective dress were so alive, Rarity thought, it had to be a touch of magic.

After a few seconds of awed silence, there was another snap. Quiet, dreamy music bloomed from the silence, though there was no visible source.

“Well, I suppose I’ll leave you to it after all,” Discord announced. “I promise I won’t breathe a word! Ta-ta!” And he winked, and was gone.